Continuing our look back at the last 12 months, we take a look at the cyclo-cross bikes that impressed our testers.
From the top-tier carbon Trek to the absolute bargain that is the Boardman CX Team, there's something here for every cyclo-cross enthusiast. While the prices and specifications of these five bikes vary, they all have one thing in common - a top rating.
Trek Cronus CX
"Trek have built a top-tier carbon ’cross bike that balances performance and price, perfectly"
- Weight: 7.94 kg (17.52 lb)
- Frame: carbon
- Fork: Bontrager Race X Lite Cross, E2 alloy steerer
- Groupset: SRAM Force
- Wheels: Bontrager Race Lite
Trek may be late to the game of cyclo-cross bikes but the 2012 Cronus CX has been worth the wait. Carbon cyclo-cross bikes are a tricky subject for a bike manufacturer. They're generally second bikes (to riders) and their sales volume is low, so there's less of an incentive to spend resources developing them. Still, they take considerable effort to engineer properly and the investment manufacturers make is apparent in the end product.
Somehow, Trek have outdone just about all of their competition by producing a frame and fork that are smartly designed to capitalize, completely, on carbon's properties, while also offering component dress worthy professional racing on any continent. Trek have done this at a price that's not cheap by any means but competes with many carbon bikes specced with lower level components.
Boardman CX Team
"Precise handling plus powerful stop and go performance make the Boardman an absolute bargain"
- Weight: 9.88 kg
- Frame: Lightweight alloy triple butted, tapered steerer, BB30, full smooth welding
- Fork: Superlight full carbon, tapered steerer, disc compatible
- Groupset: SRAM Apex
- Wheels: Ritchey Pro Disc
The Boardman CX Team gets a disc-specific overhaul for 2012 while dropping its price by £100 to create a phenomenal value package. It offers confident, comfortable performance off-road at a raceable weight and is rack-ready for commuting, and it looks great too.
Boardman CX Pro
"An exceptionally versatile ‘crosser for the money that’s outstanding in virtually every way"
- Weight: 9.88 kg
- Frame: Alloy triple butted, tapered steerer, BB30, full smooth welding
- Fork: Full carbon, tapered steerer, disc compatible
- Groupset: SRAM Force
- Wheels: Ritchey Pro OCR Disc with Formula Disc hub
Boardman's original CX Pro was a cantilever-braked cyclo-cross machine that garnered great reviews for its practicality and exceptional value package. With the switch to disc brakes and an all-new frame the new version continues the pedigree.
As one of Boardman's new 'international' models, it's not available in the brand's British homeland – but a higher spec bike for the UK is reportedly in the pipeline, with a spring 2012 ETA. For now, UK buyers will have to make do with the cheaper CX Team.
All-City Nature Boy
"Brilliant – it shouldn’t make sense but it does"
- Weight: 10.5 kg (22.9 lb)
- Frame: double-butted 4130 steel
- Fork: Lugged Cro-mo CX
- Wheels: All-City, Alex hubs
The Nature Boy might seem like a niche within a niche – a singlespeed cyclo-cross bike – but don’t rush to dismiss it. We can’t see the validity of a one-speed bike for racing, but the Nature Boy makes a huge amount of sense for commuting, especially if your route to work takes in any off-road sections – and if it doesn’t, the Nature Boy will tempt you to ﬁnd some.
As a commuting bike we love the Nature Boy; its simplicity makes it a joy to use. It handles as well as cyclo-cross bikes that cost twice the price, and the frameset itself is beautifully ﬁnished and looks superb, with an attention to detail rarely found at this price.
Cannondale CAADX 105
"Outstanding blend of efﬁciency, versatility and fun at a great value price"
- Weight: 9.34 kg
- Frame: 6061 Alu
- Fork: Ultra CX Carbon Blades
- Groupset: Shimano 105
- Wheels: Maddux DrX 6000 rims, Formula hubs, 32 black stainless XD spokes
Cannondale have always been one of the go-to brands for high performance cyclo-cross bikes. The CAADX is still a lightweight all-terrain flyer but gets slightly less aggressive geometry and a full fixture list to create a great value bike with an appetite for anything.
While the CAADX isn’t stable enough for fully laden lugging, mudguard and rack mounts mean it’s as happy taking essentials down rainy streets or over the hills as it is lining up on a local park startline. It's light and responsive enough to race on or put a pep in your winter training; agile, confident and communicative enough to be a lot of fun on light off-road trails; and comfortable enough to cut buzz on railway ballast trails or back lanes.